Ask Tip Sheet

I signed up for a credit card at a ball game to get a free T shirt. Now I've heard that my credit rating will be hurt by having too many cards, by not activating my account or by having an application rejected. Is this true?

-- Nick Imgrund, St. Louis, Mo.

A lot of what you heard is true. The number of cards you have (whether they have a balance or not) can either help or hurt your score depending on a number of factors. Though credit agencies have no way of telling if you've ever been rejected, they do consider the length of your credit history and any outstanding debts. So it had better be a really cool T shirt if you're applying for a mortgage any time soon.